What The Film Fest 2019
March 1st - 3rd, 2019
The Laser Blast Film Society is proud to present the 5th edition of the What The Film Festival, an annual celebration of contemporary eccentric cinema.
What The Film Festival fills a gap in Toronto’s dense film festival landscape, showcasing outlier and outsider films that intersect definitions of both genre and avant-garde cinema and operate outside the traditional parameters of taste and convention. It is made possible in part by the funding support from Vinegar Syndrome and the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.
The 5th Annual WHAT THE FILM FESTIVAL is proud to present for its OPENING NIGHT FILM the TORONTO PREMIERE of Patrick Wang’s A BREAD FACTORY, an epic, yet intimate two-part portrait of an idiosyncratic community and its indelible artists, which has been hailed by critics as among “the best films of 2018!” (The AV CLUB).
Both Part 1 & 2 are included with a single admission ticket ($20), or as part of the WHAT THE FILM FESTIVAL ALL-ACCESS PASS ($40). Expected to sell out, so secure your tickets here ASAP.
The 2nd day of festivities begins with a special marathon of an obscure, but radical Canadian television series, and concludes with a special late night party and cult cinema marketplace!
Eat all the sugar-coated cereal you can while watching highlights from the strangest children television series ever made, and then meet the show’s puppets in person as well as series creators Jeff Green and Mike Cormier!
Festival director Peter Kuplowsky interviews Jeff Green and Mike Cormier about the making of COWBOY WHO? Learn how and why such an innovative and bizarre show ever made it on to television.
Inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s AUTUMN SONATA and conjured by an obscure auteur who’s been averaging two feature films a year since 2008, this offbeat discovery depicts the uncanny psychological duress endured by the newlywed proprietors of an ancient hotel following the arrival of an estranged matriarch.
Shot over 11 years by a physics professor at the University of Southern California, this incredibly strange parable about a teenager overcoming his fear of surfing has been steadily accruing a reputation at international Midnight screenings as the cult film successor to the THE ROOM and FATEFUL FINDINGS.
9:00 PM – WTFilm BAZAAR @ SUPER WONDER GALLERY
Have a drink, move to some music, peruse the wares of unique video vendors + indie artists and discover 100 of the strangest and rarest VHS cassettes in a pop-up video store gallery. Plus a live-musical performance from DINOSAUR ISLAND and delectable brews courtesy of Collective Arts Brewing; this is a night guaranteed to live in infamy. $5 cover, or free entry to ALL-ACCESS PASS and FESTIVAL TICKET HOLDERS.
For our final day join us for two incredible restorations of should-be classics and close out the festival with the Canadian Premiere of perhaps the festival’s most deranged film yet!
The incredible preservationists of cult video label Vinegar Syndrome present a brand new restoration of cult FX artist Brett Piper’s most infamous sci-fi epic, which catapults a man into a post-apocalyptic Earth full of mutants and stop-motion monsters.
Sarah Jacobson’s punk-spirited DIY feature about the sexual awakening of a high-school girl as she spends her senior year working at an independent movie cinema. Preceded by her acclaimed feminist B-movie tribute I WAS A TEENAGE SERIAL KILLER.
Underground filmmaker Damon Packard’s four-year in the making epic follows the exploits of husband/wife moguls trapped with a deadbeat couch potato brother in a hallucinogenic 1-900 world of 1991. Inspired by the corporate take-over era of the late 80s/early 90s and all the dark, atmospheric, neo-noir thrillers that came along with it.
WHAT THE FILM FESTIVAL is made possible by these awesome organizations:
PAST EDITIONS OF WHAT THE FILM FESTIVAL
The 4th edition of the WHAT THE FILM FESTIVAL took place from March 24th - 25th, 2018 and screened the following films:
- Dir. Giordano Giulivi
- Cast: Silvano Bertolin, Ferdinando D'Urbano, Duccio Giulivi, Carlotta Mazzoncini
- Italy / 2017 / 109 min / Toronto Premiere!
A cabal of scientists on the brink of reducing destiny to a mathematical equation have been invited to a secluded island estate under the auspice of a mysterious professor. Upon their arrival and in lieu of their host, they are confronted with diorama of their surroundings that eerily contain eight chess pieces within its walls - a pawn for each one of the scientists. Eerier still, they observe that when one of them moves, so too do one of the pawns. And so a chilling realization dawns: they have found themselves ensnared in a sinister game of fate where their every decision has been anticipated and engineered to systematically send them to their doom.
Meticulously produced for over seven and a half years and miraculously shot entirely against rear-projected digital backdrops in a cramped basement set, Giordano Giulivi’s remarkable existential nightmare is a feat of indie film ingenuity. Coated in a surreal black and white aesthetic pastiche that seems to flirt between the pulp stylings of Mario Bava and Rod Serling, its thrills also methodically escalate with each ‘captured pawn’, accruing the delirious momentum of a hypothetical SAW sequel directed by Guy Maddin. Marrying shocks and smarts is a rare combination, and with The Laplace’s Demon, Giuliani has undoubtedly hit upon a winning formula.
- Peter Kuplowsky
- Dir. Terry Chiu
- Cast: Ian Sheldon, Philip Silverstein, Jessica McKnight, Matias Rittatore, Chloé Yoshino Lemay
- Canada / 2018 / 97 min / World Premiere!
Simon likes Joni, whose bestie is Cecilia, who likes Xavier, but Xavier doesn’t know what he wants anymore, much like Cecilia’s angsty brother Spaceboy who is trying to figure out why self-help letters addressed to Spike have been strewn around suburbia. Meanwhile, Cass is trying to get over Ela who is now banging his best friend Jams (pronounced James - look it’s a Sonic Youth reference ok!), and though Avalin and Amelia don’t really approve of that, they’re looking forward to spending their summer loitering around Philip and Ian’s mangoshake stand - because, you know, mangos carry 1% more riboflavin and just as much pantothenic acid as lemons.
An uproarious lo-fi labyrinth of suburban adolescent shenanigans over ‘one crazy summer’, MANGOSHAKE recalls the generational coming-of-age myths of Richard Linklater or George Lucas’s American Graffiti, but filtered through a raw and frequently anarchic aesthetic that affords it a disarming authenticity. Shot over a single summer among a group of real-life friends and acquaintances, themselves at the crossroads of adulthood, the film in a sense also documents its own creation. Akin to thumbing the pages of a teenager’s secret diary, jubilant irreverence gives way to startlingly profound pangs of existential angst, relationships evaporate without catharsis, and the ‘best’ or ‘worst’ day of one's life are perpetually up for emotional debate.
At times, writer/director Terry Chiu captures much of this youthful pathos and passion with the startlingly confident compositional rigour of formalists like Roy Andersson, and all the while keenly directing (and acting against) his largely non-professional, but charismatic ensemble cast whose comic instincts are often, quite frankly, revelatory. The result is as pure and infectious a celebration of suburban youth as there has ever been. - Peter Kuplowsky
- Dir. Andrée Pelletier
- Cast: Nicole Stoffman, Mark Critch, Henry Czerny, Andrew Younghusband
- Canada / 1994 / 82 min / RARE 35mm PRESENTATION
In the far future of 2010, Newfoundland is in ruins: the streets are overrun by snarling punks, the evil Wondracrop corporation rules the land with an iron fist, and the island is impossible to escape because the sea has become a deadly acid.
When a young upper class woman named Robin (Nicole Stoffman of Degrassi Junior High) learns that her thought-to-be-dead dad is in fact very much alive somewhere in the city, she sets out to find him. The moment Robin hits the streets, she is mugged, caught by the police, and handcuffed to a skateboarding ruffian named Radd (Mark Critch of This Hour Has 22 Minutes). Together they make a daring escape and before long meet up with Radd’s best friend Dogface (Pheilm Martin) and young Ved (Michael Luke), a child who recently escaped government experimentation. This newfound family now has to dodge corrupt future cops, endure a bounty on their heads, and solve an impossible problem: how to escape the world their parents ruined?
Made in 1994 to the tune of a million dollars, ANCHOR ZONE was designed to kick-start the Newfoundland film industry and compete with 1995’s glut of Hollywood summer blockbusters. Directed by Andrée-Anne Pelletier (VOODOO DOLLS), ANCHOR ZONE is ‘sci-fi blockbuster’ at its most Canadian: small-scale, starkly designed and hinged on emotions instead of pyrotechnics. It’s also got the hilarious slang of a cyberpunk novel, the smog filled streets of a budget BLADE RUNNER, and the folksiest depiction of a dystopia ever put on screen. You’d swear the crumbling streets of the future were just St. John’s illuminated by red and blue lights.
At the time of its release, the producers drummed up a ton of press, published a novelization and announced a bold plan to skip home video and release directly onto the future of cinema: CD-ROM! Alas, the film flopped, their best laid plans were abandoned and ANCHOR ZONE was unfairly banished to the outer zone of our national memory. - Justin Decloux
- Dir. Armando Lamberti
- Cast: Brian May, Monica May, Kass Visokey, Romy Valentina
- USA / 2017 / 101 min / World Premiere
After an apartment break-in incites a debilitating bout of paranoia, twenty-something Joel Carlough retreats to the luxury of his New Jersey childhood estate, planning to spend the rest of the semester doted upon by his meek mother. A rude awakening ensues when arrangements are instead made for Joel to move in with his brooding half-sister Meredith, and what began as a comic character study of a sneering manifestation of arrested adolescence gradually crescendos into a full-blown familial melodrama.
Co-written by Armando Lamberti and Brian May, with the former directing, and the latter portraying the entitled Joel, this mannered cringe comedy skillfully employs a stylish rhythm to its acerbic dialogue that diffuses the admittedly amateur air of its cast with a heightened sense of artifice reminiscent of Hal Hartley or Wes Anderson. Though occasionally risking pretension with its patient pacing and stoic wit, there’s an undeniable and arresting decisiveness to Lamberti’s direction that both impresses and endears. Nary a composition or performance tic seems arbitrary, but rather all appears part of a calculated project towards not only understanding the interiority of an infantile asshole, but also the collateral emotional damage such a person can leave in their wake. - Peter Kuplowsky
- Dir. Takahide Hori
- Japan / 2017 / 114 min / Toronto Premiere!
A stop-motion tour-de-force as whimsical as Wallace and Gromit, but with the aesthetic predilections of H.R. Giger, JUNK HEAD’s picaresque plot concerns a cybernetic explorer’s descent into the recesses of the Earth to recover ancient DNA that promises to restore fertility to the human race. Encountering an imaginative bestiary of gross-out creatures and idiosyncratic mutant clones that populate the planet’s bowels, the explorer is repeatedly torn asunder, reconstituted, exploited and even mistaken for God as he traverses a subterranean labyrinth of Escheresque proportions.
Brimming with surrealist sights and indelible personalities, the film's marvelous world-building is made all the more remarkable when one appreciates that it was breathed to life by a single animator who reportedly had no prior stop-motion experience! Therefore to watch the film is to also bear witness to debut filmmaker Takahide Hori's extraordinary evolution as an animator and storyteller over the film's eight years of production. - Peter Kuplowsky
The 4th edition also inaugurated the 1st annual WHAT THE FILM BAZAAR Presented by Arrow Video!
Seekers of the strange had their appetites satiated by sights both on and off-screen at the WHAT THE FILM BAZAAR presented by ARROW VIDEO at THE MONARCH TAVERN. The bazaar complimented WTFilm Fest's showcase of contemporary eccentric cinema with a market of cult cinema vendors, local cult artists and indie community collectives.
ARROW VIDEO, the market’s presenting sponsor and world-leader in the restoration and distribution of cult and horror cinema, sold a curated selection of exclusive Blu-Rays and DVDs from their immense inventory. In tandem, Toronto’s favourite indie comics institution, THE BEGUILING BOOKS + ART, curated a series of artist signings, as well as selling a selection of their strangest wares. Appearing artists include: Benjamin Marra (Night Business), Jenn Woodall (Magical Beatdown), Jason Loo and Matt Daley.
Toronto’s Broken Pencil magazine, indie video-game arts collective The Hand-Eye Society and Bay-Street Video also had a presence at the market, as well as THE IMPORTANT CINEMA CLUB, which held a live-recording of an episode.
The 3rd edition of the WHAT THE FILM FESTIVAL took place on June 24th, 2017 and screened the following films:
BLOODY MUSCLE BODY BUILDER IN HELL
- Dir. Shinichi Fukazawa
- Cast: Shinichi Fukazawa, Masaaki Kai, Asako Nosaka
- Japan / 2014 / 62 min / CANADIAN PREMIERE
First (and only) time writer/director/actor/
- Dir. Kentucker Audley, Albert Birney
- Cast: Sylvio Bernardi, Kentucker Audley, Albert Birney
- USA / 2017 / 80 min / CANADIAN PREMIERE
A downtrodden debt collector named Sylvio Bernardi becomes an overnight celebrity after he trips and inadvertently smashes up the set of a public-access television show in the middle of a broadcast to the delight of its audience. Recognizing the audience’s hunger to see more comical wanton destruction, the show’s producer and host (Kentucker Audley) invites him to be a regular guest. Sylvio accepts the opportunity, but only in the hope that this platform will permit him to expose the world to his true passion: performing micro-narratives with a hand-puppet of a balding middle-aged man named Herbert Herpels. Oh, and Sylvio is a gorilla that wears sunglasses; did I not mention that? Based on a popular VINE channel that chronicled the banal struggle of a working-class primate across 814 six-second clips, SYLVIO conjures up an absurd, but legitimately heartwarming (and coherent) satire and idiosyncratic character study that remarkably transcends its humble social media origins.
SHE’S ALLERGIC TO CATS
- Dir. Michael Reich
- Cast: Mike Pinkney, Sonja Kinski, Flula Borg,
- USA / 2016 / 82 min / TORONTO PREMIERE
When a dog groomer (Mike Pinkey) who aspires to be recognized in Hollywood for his avant-garde video art asks out the girl of his dreams (Sonja Kinski, granddaughter of Klaus) and she accepts, he panics at the thought of inviting her over to his rat infested apartment. His anxiety leads him to illicitly procure a cat to help rid his apartment of the vermin… but oh god… the title of this movie… THIS WILL NOT END WELL! Funded entirely by working as a body double for one of the DAFT PUNK robots, Michael Reich’s incredible debut feature is a Linklater meet-cute soaked in an experimental VHS aesthetic that gradually escalates into a full-on Lynchian fever dream that dares to call out the disturbing nature of William Huyck’s HOWARD THE DARK and make a DVD copy of Frank Marshall’s CONGO look devastatingly sexy. (FILMMAKER MICHAEL REICH WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE!)
- Dir. Mike Olenick
- USA / 2017 / 20 min / CANADIAN PREMIERE
- Precedes: BLOODY MUSCLE BODY BUILDER IN HELL
A hypnotic sci-fi soap opera that collides the idiosyncratic private lives of both humans and aliens in a parade of sublime slow-zooms and kitschy feline totems.
- Dir: Steven Kostanski
- CANADA / 2017 / 4 min / WORLD PREMIERE
- Precedes: SYLVIO
Director Steven Kostanski (The Void, Manborg) has partnered up with Transformers rockstars The Cybertronic Spree to lend his creative vision to their first original anthem, “Cybertronic Warrior.” Taking inspiration from Japanese mecha anime, TV and video games such as Robotech, The Super Sentai series, and Cybernator, this video follows the band through a dangerous space fortress filled with evil cybernetic life forms hell-bent on their destruction. They’ll have to load their courage files to make it through. But will they all survive?
LA TRISTESSE DURERA TOUJOURS
- Dir. Vinny De Ghoulie
- Cast: Vinny De Ghoulie, Vera R. Taylor
- USA / 2017 / 10 min / CANADIAN PREMIERE
- Precedes: SHE’S ALLERGIC TO CATS
Vinny De Ghoulie returns to WHAT THE FILM FEST with what may very well be his 8 1⁄2 - a maddening deconstruction of his own process culled from the remnants of a feature film he mounted, but failed to to realize. As amusingly bemusing as it is devastating.
The 2nd edition of What The Film Festival took place from June 30th to July 2nd, 2016 and screened the following films.
- Dir. Charlie Wiener
- Cast: Martin and Michael McNamara, B.Bob, Steve Goof
- Canada /1990 / 90 min
Hong Kong had Bruce Lee, Belgium has the Muscle from Brussels, and Uncle Sam is defended by the likes of Norris and Segal, but in the Great White North we have THE TWIN DRAGONS: Martin and Michael McNamara, two champion kickboxing brothers who in the late-1980s portrayed themselves in a duology of maple-syrup martial art epics would later become late-night TV staples throughout the country.
In each film, the McNamara’s found themselves antagonized by a sadistic woodland militia within the wilderness of Pointe au Baril, Ontario, but it was in their second effort DRAGON HUNT, that this formula was perfected; perhaps thanks to the addition of ninjas, nursery rhymes and ludicrous levels of explosions and gunfire. Further complimented by an infectious rock n’ roll soundtrack courtesy of Southern Ontario rocker Billy Butt and outrageous comic-book villainy from the mo-hawk sporting, Mother Goose-quoting Jake (B. Bob), only cult classics as notorious as MIAMI CONNECTION and DEADLY PREY can begin to approximate the martial arts mayhem that await audiences in this classic of Canuxploitation cinema.
DON’T LET THE RIVER BEAST GET YOU
- Dir. Charles Rocburgh
- Cast: Matt Farley, Kevin McGee, Sharon Scalzo
- USA / 99 min / 2013 / CANADIAN PREMIERE!
Prepare to fall in love with the idiosyncratic cinema of Charles Roxburgh and Matt Farley, the latter of whom is perhaps better known as “the most prolific song-writer in the world”, having composed, sung and released over 18,000 songs through his label MOTERN MEDIA.
In DON’T LET THE RIVER BEAST GET YOU, Farley portrays Neil Stewart, a disgraced tutor / rock ‘n’ roller who returns to his sleepy New England town in an effort to prove the existence of a local aquatic menace and also win back the heart of his ex-fiancée, who left him out of embarrassment for his “river beast” obsession. As in their previous films, Charlie and Farley once again lampoon the tropes and traditions of low-budget B-movies by filtering them through their unique comic sensibility that skirts, but never falls into ironic mockery or condescending camp. Loquacious dialogue and ramshackle aesthetic quirks abound, but it is always couched in an air of wide-eyed sincerity that is sure to incite fits of giggles and intense endearment.
TANGO EUROPA (Work-In-Progress)
- Dir. Bennet Jones
- Cast: Bennet Jones, Will Crest, Ashley Gong
- USA / 75 min / 2016
WHAT THE FILM FEST alumni Bennet Jones returns with a work-in-progress travelogue that follows the events of his acclaimed cult musical comedy I AM A KNIFE WITH LEGS, and sees the cynical International Pop rockstar Bené and his loyal sidekick Beefy traversing Europe incognito.
NOVA SEED (Work-In-Progress)
- Dir. Nick Dilberto
- Cast: Nick Dilberto
- Canada / 64 min / 2016
An eye-popping animated sci-fi fable in the tradition of Moebius and Miyazaki, painstakingly hand-animated by independent Canadian animator Nick DiLiberto over four years. Despite spinning a familiar yarn that features a reluctant hero combating an evil subterranean mad-scientist (perfectly named Doctor Mind Skull), DiLiberto peppers every frame with wonderfully eclectic details that teases a much larger canvas as he catapults the audience from set-piece to set-piece with an aesthetic sensibility that feels both nostalgic and fresh.
- Dir. JAZ (Created at the Christie Rivers Day Camp)
- Cast: Zak Tatham, Aaron Manczyk, Efehan Elbi
- Canada / 55 min / 2016 / WORLD PREMIERE
The year is 1991, the universe is not our own, but rather a high-technology utopia wherein humanity stretches across multple star-systems, and manages an addiction to cream-based foodstuffs and perpetual body-modification. Following an altogether alien holiday celebration, three bros (Zak Tatham, Aaron Mancyzk and Efehan Elbi) witness a commercial for an intergalactic mall known as the biosphere, and, with the help of Zak’s sister Tima, hijack a spaceship in an effort to fulfill the libidinal desires promised by the advertisement. The resulting adventure is an anarchic comedy that pays tribute to JOHN CARPENTER’S DARK STAR and Tarkovsky’s SOLARIS, but with a hyperactive energy akin to the work of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, and a transgressive edge reminiscent of John Waters.
Sprung from the minds behind the hilarious Toronto underground web-series LIVING WITH FRIENDS, SPACE BREAKERS is sure to confound, baffle and even shock most audiences. However, those willing to join the film’s joyously demented wavelength will find themselves breaking into uncontrollable hysterics throughout as Zak, Aaron and Efehan squabble with stowaways, Tima transmogrifies into a tattoo-ridden bro, and the whole gang struggles to fight off a literal swarm of space dicks attempting to penetrate the ship. It only gets weirder from there.
The 2nd edition of the WHAT THE FILM FESTIVAL also featured a pay-to-leave marathon. In an effort to encourage audiences to sit through the entirety of this especially challenging, unconventional, and flat out bonkers short and feature film marathon, attendees whose eyeballs lack the patience and the willpower will be charged $5, otherwise the marathon is free to those who make it to the very end!
The event was followed by musical performances from The J. Arthur Keenes Band, konig, and International Rockstar Bené.
The 1st edition of What The Film Festival took place on June 27th, 2015 and screened the following films:
WTFilm SHORTS PROGRAMME
- Dir. Zak Tatham
- Canada / 3 min / 2008
A love triangle between the filmmaker and his two selves. A side-splitting phantasmagoria of lo-fi FX compositing and surreally hilarious romantic repartee.
- Dir. Tom Steeber
- USA / 20 min / 2011
A mixed-media romantic nightmare starring Barbie(TM) in a role unlike anything you've since Todd Hayne's Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story.
TOPAZ DUO: COSMIX PHOENIX
- Dir. Ben Robinson
- Qatar / 12 min / 2012
Real-life Egyptian lounge singer act, Ahmed and Nahla, battle the forces of evil with the power of... lounge music!
- Dir. Vincent de Ghoulie
- USA / 30 min / 2014
Purportedly co-directed by the ghost of George Kuchar (seriously), this is a wildly entertaining fever dream about LSD, babysitters, and the most foul mouthed child to ever grace a Final Cut Pro timeline.
PHOBE: THE XENOPHOBIC EXPERIMENT
- Dir. Erica Benedikty
- Canada / 81 min / 1990
- WORLD PREMIERE OF REMASTERED VERSION!
Never before seen beyond limited airings on regional cable stations in Ontario throughout the mid-90s, Witness this ambitious maple-syrup drenched riff on The Terminator, complete with ray guns, spaceships, Blue Jay world series sweatshirts and lots of roman candles!
I AM A KNIFE WITH LEGS
- Dir. Bennet Jones
- USA / 94 min / 2014 / TORONTO PREMIERE
A kaleidoscopic DIY extravaganza of infectious music, absurdist comedy, and experimental barrages of Adobe After Effects-induced seizures, all in the interest of spinning the story of International Pop Star Bené and his manager/DJ/foil-character/